During my gap year in 2020, before studying Geography at Cambridge, I spent nine months working as an intern at Junxion Strategy’s London, UK office. Thus began my first foray into the world of work. They even paid me! Here are my biggest revelations about my experience.
- You are not a replacement for the office coffee machine: I researched sectors, benchmarked companies, attended meetings with clients, devised marketing and sustainability strategies, and helped write proposals. A consultancy has the bonus of exposing you to a wide range of sectors. To name a few: fashion, property development, education, finance, charities, IGOs, food & drinks. (And only very occasionally I made drinks for my colleagues and myself.)
- If I didn’t do Junxion’s 2019 impact report, the report wouldn’t exist: An impact report explains and analyses the overall impact a company had in a given period. The aim is to be transparent, and to set tangible targets-not just include the highlight reel of what a company does. We decided to structure our report around the five pillars of the B Impact Assessment: workers, community, environment, governance, and customers. Before starting on ours, I combed through numerous impact reports from other companies. I learned more about fellow companies in the B Corp community, whilst getting ideas for where to begin writing Junxion’s impact report. It was the perfect task with which to begin my internship.
- A deadline is your friend. Perfectionism is your enemy: Work expands to fit the time allotted—and it’s better to have finished a task than perfected it. Case in point is said impact report. If not for the fixed deadline, I have no doubt that it would have taken at least twice as long!
- There’s a lot to learn: School endows you with useful work skills like researching, writing, critical thinking; but don’t expect to be solving quadratic equations at the office anytime soon. Which is to say that almost everything I did at Junxion, I was doing for the first time. I found it helpful to stay curious and trust that I wouldn’t have been given the role had my colleagues not been confident I was capable of delivering.
- Homework was lonely, working in a team is not: The satisfaction upon finishing a big project was multiplied because of the team effort that had gone into it. Working with people means sharing the successes, the complete opposite of the individual competitiveness which was standard at school.
- When you open your mouth, people (surprisingly) listen: My suggestion that lots of vegan food companies—which I love—should become certified B Corps launched a new marketing strategy in the form of compiling and contacting hundreds of ethical food and drinks brands and inviting them to our weekly B Corp breakfast webinars over three months. My role in promoting these events culminated in over 250 people attending those webinars, representing a wide range of company sectors and sizes. At least 50 of those qualified as interesting leads, essentially generating a ‘hit list’ for future outreach.
- If you don’t believe you’re important, no one else will: I spent the first few weeks of my internship introducing myself quietly, almost apologetically, as if to say ‘don’t pay attention to me, I’m not important.’ This does no one any favours, and only reinforces archaic stereotypes and hierarchies of gender and age. People do in fact value hearing a variety of perspectives. More often than not, I was by far the youngest person in the room—which meant I brought a unique and valuable perspective!
- Progress in work is not linear: I worked on a project to drum up attendees for our weekly lockdown Introduction to B Corp webinar. After a few weeks, I experienced a plateau in the number of attendees. This was initially frustrating. Ultimately though, it gave me an opportunity to review, rethink and reconfigure the way I was going about the promotion. I attended some useful marketing training webinars and had as many conversations as possible about how to improve. As a result, the final two digital events we hosted were very well attended.
- Free time is truly free: The Friday afternoon feeling is amplified by 1000 when you have no obligations at all until Monday. You know there’s nothing looming over your head: no endless revision for tests, 16-mark geography essays, or textbook questions to answer. For perhaps the first time ever, I felt that my free time genuinely belonged to me.
- The novelty of talking about work is unlikely to wear off quickly: I still feel a thrill of pride when I refer to ‘the office.’ I found I really got into the spirit of being a ‘working woman’! I’d need to remind myself from time to time that I am in fact on my gap year and don’t have a family and mortgage waiting for me at home. But in all seriousness, earning a wage gave me a new type of confidence and feeling of independence, for which I’m very grateful.
I want to thank the following people at Junxion who made my time there so memorable.
Adam, for trusting me, always including me, and most of all for the visit to innocent drinks HQ. That’s one sugar high I’ll never forget!
Rachael, for her insightful advice, energy, and teaching me how to mind map my way out of any problem.
My Canadian colleagues: Chantal, Garth, Menaka and Mike, for their energy, warmth and dedication. You made our weekly Tuesday video calls a joy.
My mum for being a great companion in our makeshift home office when lockdown began.
My dad for helping me make some sense out of my jumbled thoughts for this blog post.
Asya Ostrovsky spent her gap year interning at Junxion, where she made invaluable contributions to the firm’s marketing and to many client engagements. She’s a rock star. May you be fortunate enough to work with her some time! Contact Asya on Linked In